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Tag Archives: God

Introduction To The Gospel Of Mark

“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” (Mark 1:1)

It would be seemingly incongruous to preface any study of the Gospel of Mark with a lengthy introduction since the Gospel itself contains nothing of background or prologue. Mark’s is the gospel of action and urgency and he begins his narrative accordingly. Absent from his account are the genealogies of Matthew and Luke’s versions, nor do we find the theological profundities present in John’s opening. Instead, Mark commences his writing with a simple declaration: “Here follows the gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ, the Son of God…”

The Tempo Of Mark’s Gospel

From the very start, we see the pace and tempo that will define the entire book. In the opening chapter, we read of John the Baptist’s ministry, the Baptism of the Lord Jesus, our Lord’s temptation in the wilderness, John the Baptist’s arrest, the calling of the first disciples, Christ’s teachings in the synagogue of Capernaum, His casting out of demons, the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law, the healing of the masses of sick and demonically oppressed, and the cleansing of  a leper. The ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ began with a bang and Mark is dutiful to show this.

The word “immediately” (also translated as “straightway” and “forthwith” in the KJV) appears nearly 40 times in the Gospel of Mark (ten times in the first chapter alone), thus reinforcing the sense of urgency with which Mark recounts the events of Jesus’ public ministry. Now is the time for action, now is the time to respond to the Gospel. Perhaps no other portion of Scripture so imperatively demands a response and decision as Mark’s Gospel.

Mark’s Audience And Purpose

Luke wrote for the philosophically and scholarly minded, Matthew for the religious and orthodox of Israel, but Mark wrote for the common everyman within the Empire of Rome. We do not find the abundant references to the Old Testament Scriptures for the sensibilities of the Jewish reader, or the minute details for the historically and academically curious, but rather the facts of the Gospel of Jesus Christ laid bare and insistent upon our verdict. Will we believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God or not?

For this is the overreaching theme and purpose of Mark’s writing: to convince us that Jesus Christ is the Son of God sent to redeem us from our sins. Mark’s very first sentence declares Christ to be the Son of God (1:1). John the Baptist attests to Who Christ is (1:7-8). God the Father and the Holy Spirit witness to His identity (1:10-11), as do the demons of Hell (1:24), and the Centurion overseeing His Crucifixion (15:39).

Christ The Servant

Mark presents Christ, not as King or Priest, but as Servant, the faithful Servant of God. Therefore it is not His biological origins nor even His teachings and parables that are in focus, but His actions. The witnesses mentioned above testify to His identity and His miracles prove it. Miracles are emphasized in Mark’s account and they serve as the credentials of the Anointed Servant of God.

Mark’s Background

Colossians 4:10 reveals that John Mark was a cousin of Barnabas. Mark accompanied Paul and Barnabas on Paul’s First Missionary journey (Acts 12:25, 13:5). When the missionaries reached Perga, however, John Mark left them and returned to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). Later, when Paul enlisted Barnabas to return with him for the Second Missionary journey, Barnabas suggested that Mark accompany them again. Paul refused and insisted that Mark not be allowed to join them because of his earlier abandonment of the group. This caused a division between Paul and Barnabas resulting in their separation, with Paul choosing Silas to accompany him into Syria while Barnabas and Mark sailed for Cyprus (Acts 15:36-41).

Without a doubt, Mark had failed his ministry at Perga and had abandoned his calling, yet we know that he later reconsidered and once again became profitable for the work of the Lord. Paul himself would later call Mark, along with Luke, his “fellow worker” (Philemon 24). Paul, toward the end of his life,  would also refer to Mark as “useful to me for service” in a letter to Timothy (2 Tim. 4:11).

Mark also had the unique privilege of being in close fellowship with another great apostle, Simon Peter. Peter refers to John Mark as “my son” (1 Peter 5:13) and Church tradition maintains that Mark’s Gospel is actually the “memoirs of St. Peter.” Thus it is suggested that Mark was in the unique position to learn the facts of the Gospel from the Apostle Peter and the interpretation of the Gospel from the Apostle Paul.

Studying Mark’s Gospel

For these reasons, I believe that Mark’s Gospel is a great place to begin a study of the Gospels, the New Testament, and even the Bible itself. In fact, when asked where someone who does not know Christ should begin reading the Bible, my answer is emphatically the Book of Mark. There are no lengthy genealogies to quickly lose the new reader’s attention, no list of Jewish laws and customs, no stories of the origins of the nation of Israel. These are all important areas of the Word of God worthy of the Christian’s thorough examination, but for those unfamiliar with the Word of God it is best to begin with the basics. After all, where would a medical doctor first direct his attention on a suffering patient? To a broken toe or to a wound gushing blood from her throat? Yes, the toe should eventually be addressed, but the potentially fatal injury is by far the more pertinent of the two. All manners of theological and doctrinal matters are vital for the total spiritual health of the child of God, but if a person lacks a solid foundation on the fundamentals of faith in Christ, they are of no avail whatsoever. To forego the basics in favor of the more advanced would make as much sense as attempting to teach the intricacies of the works of Shakespeare to the child who has yet to learn to read.

That being said there is, of course, much meat and not just milk within the Gospel of Mark for the mature believer, as well. It is my hope and prayer that everyone who joins me on this journey through Mark’s Gospel will find it edifying, profitable, and beneficial for strengthening their own walk with the Lord, regardless of how far along they have come.

To God goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published June 16, 2014]

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission

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God Meant It Unto Good

“But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” (Genesis 50:20)

If a person completely unfamiliar with the Book of Genesis sat down and read the first two chapters, then skipped ahead and read the final two, they would likely have the overwhelming feeling that something had gone horribly wrong in between the two sections. Perhaps unable to put their finger directly on it, they would sense that something catastrophic had occurred in between. Genesis 1 opens with God moving upon a barren planet, filling it with life and light. Genesis 50 ends with the burial of Joseph. Genesis begins with the birth of everything and ends with the burial of the final personage covered in the narrative. In short, Genesis begins with life and ends with death.

Even the most hardened atheist must concede that there seems to be something very unnatural and even unfair about the cruel, nearly mechanical cycle of life and death. All living things die eventually, but why is this so? Why is it that the human body, so resilient, so able to reproduce and revive its own cells, finally ceases all of these processes and ultimately surrenders to the cold grasp of death? How is it that everything which God created and called “good” has become otherwise?

Man has within his heart an instinct for survival, a desire to live, and an expectation of immortality. We know within our own hearts that we ought not to die, that this is not the way things were intended to be. And in reflecting on the Book of Genesis, we see that God never intended for it to be like this. Yet sin entered in; and with it, death (Rom. 5:12). This is what went horribly wrong in those chapters between the Second and Forty-ninth of Genesis: sin. We tend to blame all of our woes on external forces, but they originated within ourselves. Man has defied the Law of God and has brought death upon himself as a result.

Yet another theme is woven into the pages of Genesis, a theme that would be overlooked by the person skipping over all of those intermediate chapters. Redemption. What man has defiled, God desires to cleanse; what man has broken, God desires to fix; and what man has lost, God desires to restore. In other words: what man has thought for evil, God has meant for good. Even the sin of Adam in the Garden of Eden, which led to the death, both spiritual and physical, of every person who would ever live can be overcome by what God has done through Jesus Christ on man’s behalf. Evil intent darkened the hearts of Adam and Eve in that Original Sin, yet God brought something good in the Redemption made available by the Blood of Christ, the Redemption offered to all men whereby they might be saved.

And so it is with the wickedness of Joseph’s brothers when they sold him into slavery. What they intended for evil, God meant for good. For this single sinful act of the brothers would set into motion all of the events that would one day bring them alive into Egypt. Though by no means alleviating their responsibility for their actions, God would bring something beautiful from the ugliness that the brothers had done. Even so, we know that the brothers of Joseph repented of the wicked deed they had done and did what they could to make things right. Fearing retribution from Joseph’s hand after their father passed away, they threw themselves upon his mercy and even appealed to Jacob’s final wishes to save them. But Joseph, his eyes fixed steadfastly on the perspective of God upon the entire matter, holds no such purpose as their destruction in his mind. He deeply loved his brothers and had forgiven them. Besides this, how could he wish harm against them when what they intended for evil, God meant for good?

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published November 19, 2010]

All Scripture quotations in this post are taken from the King James Version (KJV) of the Holy Bible

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

Jacob Before Pharaoh

“And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage.” (Genesis 47:9)

Standing in the twilight of life, as the sun begins to set and the years remaining are far exceeded by those which have already elapsed, a person tends to reflect on all that they have and have not accomplished throughout their lifetime. As the time allotted to them to live upon this earth, at one time so seemingly endless and immeasurable, begins to draw to a close, there exists the unction to look back longingly — for surely the best days of life are now a memory. Oh, the stories they can tell! I had the privilege of working for a time in a nursing home and I always enjoyed hearing people at this stage of their life recount with great enthusiasm the exploits of their youth.

If anyone had such an ability to really share some stories about his own life, it was Jacob. And now he stood in the presence of none less than the Pharaoh of Egypt. What tales he might have recounted as he looked back over 130 years of life! There must have been a part of Jacob which desired to impress the King of Egypt; some part of him that welcomed the opportunity to share the exploits of his own youth. Yet he only tells Pharaoh two things: 1.) “Few and evil have the days of the years of my life been”, and 2.) I accomplished nothing compared to my father and grandfather. The same hot-headed young man who had thought himself capable of outsmarting his brother and even his own father was now looking back on his life and saying, “I am not really anything compared with those who lived before me.” Jacob does not take this opportunity to play up his own importance at all, on the contrary, with great humility he moves himself quickly out of the spotlight.

“And Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from before Pharaoh.” (Genesis 47:10)

For a great many years of his life now, Jacob had been walking with God. He had been a broken man and had to learn to walk anew. He could now look back upon all of his life from the Lord’s perspective and, seeing it as such, left no other conclusion than what he told Pharaoh. It’s not that Jacob was not a great man, we know that he was. But Jacob is standing before Pharaoh in the capacity of God’s representative. Jacob blessed Pharaoh. It was not that this Hebrew shepherd was of such greater earthly prominence than the ruler of Egypt, it was on behalf of the Lord that he blessed him. He came before Pharaoh in the name of the Lord. There is never any room for boasting for the person who does such.

When he is blessing Ephraim and Manasseh, Jacob refers to God as the “Angel which redeemed me from all evil” (Gen. 48:16). Therein he boasts — in Christ. It is not what Jacob has accomplished that is important, it is what God has done for him and through him. Few and evil have been my days, what I have done has not amounted to much of anything. But God has redeemed me from the evil which I myself have wrought. It is what He has done that is important.

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published November 16, 2010]

All Scripture quotations in this post are taken from the King James Version (KJV) of the Holy Bible

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

Who Sent Joseph Into Egypt?

God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt.” (Genesis 45:7-8)

The implications of this statement made by Joseph to his bewildered brothers must have been as perplexing and astounding to them as it has been to generations of Bible readers since it was first spoken. As believers, we tend to just sort of skip right through such profound statements with the unspoken understanding that, naturally, all things are under God’s control and He is in control of all things. Skeptics enjoy reading such statements as opportunities to impugn the character of God; assigning to Him full responsibility for the entirety of man’s errors. But what exactly do such statements really mean? More directly: was everything which we have read about occurring in the life of Joseph a part of God’s perfect plan?

Before we are too quick to answer this, we should consider what it would mean if all of these things were, in fact, the plan of God. First of all, it would imply that it was God’s plan for the brothers to commit sin by selling their brother into slavery. James tells us in his epistle that God never entices man to do evil (James 1:13) and consequently could never plan or intend for anyone to commit sin. Sin is, therefore, never a part of God’s perfect plan. Yet we are told that God sent Joseph into Egypt, i.e., that He planned for Joseph to go there. How is this possible if God did not intend for the brothers to sell him into slavery?

This is an area of disputation that has historically resulted in all sorts of theological dilemmas, calling into question where the line is drawn between God’s will and the free will of man. Does God or does He not ever step across that line in order to accomplish His perfect will? My simple answer to this is that He does not. What God does do is to take the opportunity to use even the sin, errors, and shortcomings of man (believers and unbelievers alike) to bring His will to pass. It was not God’s intention for the brothers to sell Joseph into slavery, but He chose to use that as the impetus that would put Joseph into the land of Egypt. God did not plan for Potiphar’s wife to make lewd advances toward Joseph nor to falsely accuse him of misconduct; yet He used those very things to facilitate Joseph’s delivery into prison — a place where he would come into close contact with the chief butler and baker of Pharaoh.

How God would have brought His will to pass apart from the sins of these people is anyone’s guess, but we can be assured that God did not need the sins of man to help His plans along. He never does. It speaks volumes about the sovereignty of our Lord in that He is able to accomplish His will in spite of man’s sin. What a profound reminder that God is in complete control!

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published November 11, 2010]

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission

The Silver Cup In Benjamin’s Sack

“Then they speedily took down every man his sack to the ground, and opened every man his sack. And he searched, and began at the eldest, and left at the youngest: and the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack.” (Genesis 44:11-12)

After the brothers of Joseph are confronted with the accusation of stealing the silver cup, it isn’t hard to imagine the outrage and indignation that they must have felt. This Egyptian ruler first accused them of being spies sent into the land to observe its weaknesses (Gen. 42:9) and now he was accusing them of this! Just what exactly must they do in order to prove that they are honest men? They protest vehemently to the steward bringing the message and even offer up as evidence the fact that they had attempted to repay the money previously returned into their sacks. So certain are they that every man among them is guiltless that they offer up anyone possessing the article to be put to death. Additionally, they vow that if such a man is found among them then the rest will all voluntarily submit to a life of indenture.

And so the search begins as the steward and his servants begin to rummage through the personal effects contained within each man’s luggage. They begin with the eldest brother, Reuben, and work their way down to the youngest from there. We can imagine the brothers standing close by, watching as each sack is carefully examined, becoming more and more confident of their collective innocence with each set of belongings inspected. As the Egyptians came to the sacks of Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher, the brothers must have been expectant of complete exoneration. Most of them must have already loaded their belongings back into place and made ready to move out as the final bags were checked. Then, to their utter horror and shock, the words rang out: “Here it is, I’ve found it.”
We know that Benjamin was not actually guilty of stealing the cup, but this scene is a reminder of the guilt that every person does carry. Sadly, there are those who live their lives with the same expectation of full exoneration that the sons of Jacob had; believing that even God Almighty will find no fault in them. Like the rich young ruler, they will stand before their Creator and confidently declare: “All these things [the commandments of God] have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?” (Matt. 19:20). The Lord Jesus made an examination of that young ruler’s life and searched through it as the Egyptian steward searched through the sacks of the brothers of Joseph. He named off several of the Ten Commandments to which the young man plead not guilty. There was no silver cup found in those sacks, it would seem. But just as the cup was eventually found among Joseph’s brothers possessions, so was sin found in the young man’s life.
We might think that we carry no guilt before God because we haven’t murdered anyone, we haven’t committed adultery, we haven’t given false testimony against anyone (although according to God’s standards as given by the Lord Jesus at the Sermon on the Mount, we would all most likely be guilty in those areas, as well), but everyone is guilty of violating at least some of God’s holy commandments. Romans 3:23 tells us that all have sinned and failed to live up to God’s standards. We need a Savior Who will forgive our sins and shortcomings and make us right with God before we stand before Him. There will be many who will come before God one day and be so confident of their own innocence that they will agree with the sentiment of the brothers of Joseph: “With whomsoever sin be found, let him die…” They will proudly offer up their own sacks for examination, believing none of them to be stained with the guilt of sin. Yet the search of each these individuals will regrettfully end the same: “Here it is, I have found it.” Let us trust in the Lord today and confess our sins to Him.
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